ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan says it is halting all flights to and from China after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the ongoing coronavirus outbreak a global emergency.
Pakistani officials announced on January 31 that 22 weekly flights will remain suspended until February 2, as the outbreak continues to spread in and outside of China.
Pakistan has yet to register a case, but top health official Zafar Mirza said four Pakistani students in China had been diagnosed with the new virus.
Around 500 students were in the Chinese city of Wuhan, which is at the center of the outbreak, when it surfaced earlier this month, officials said.
Islamabad said it has no immediate plans to evacuate the almost 30,000 Pakistani nationals living in the country, even though parents in the city of Kohat staged protests demanding the government bring their children back.
At least 213 people in China have died from the coronavirus, with nearly 10,000 cases registered. A total of 98 cases have been confirmed in 18 other countries, but no deaths outside of China have been recorded, according to the WHO.
The UN health agency’s decision to declare a global emergency allows it to support lower- and middle-income countries to strengthen their disease surveillance systems and prepare them for cases.
Chinese authorities have effectively sealed off Wuhan and put numerous transport restrictions in place to curb the spread of the virus.
Meanwhile, various countries have taken steps to close their borders with China, cancel flights, or suspend the issuance of visas to Chinese citizens.
The United States has warned its citizens against all travel to China and said any American currently in the country "should consider departing using commercial means."
"Do not travel to China due to novel coronavirus first identified in Wuhan," the U.S. State Department said in a new travel advisory on its website, raising the warning for China to the same level as Afghanistan and Iraq.